Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

JRR Tolkien Portal

Advanced Latin: Hobbitus Ille

Latin is such a great language that many wonderful modern texts have been translated into the language: Dr. Seuss, Alice in Wonderful, Asterix and Obelix, Harry Potter…..and Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Join this module to read this beloved story in Latin!
Precepted by Larry Swain.

Advanced Old English: Beowulf I

Spend the time reading and translating in a relaxed manner with friends! This beautiful, moving, narrative poem is a joy to work with and I hope you will join me for a month of study.
Precepted by Larry Swain.

Advanced Old English: Heroic Elegies

J. R. R. Tolkien suggested in his seminal Monsters and the Critics that Beowulf is a heroic elegy. In this module, we will translate some of the Old English Heroic Elegies such as Deor, Wife’s Lament, Husband’s Message, The Ruin, and if time others. Not only translating, the question is how these “elegies” relate to Beowulf, or Tolkien’s own work. The module emphasizes translation and working in Old English, but also how that applies to other literature (i. e. this stuff isn’t in a vacuum!)
Precepted by Larry Swain.

Are You Tolkien To Me?

Why are the works of J.R.R. Tolkien still so relevant to us in the 21st century? In this course, we will look at some of the central themes of his novels, including Family, Home, Good vs. Evil, and Loss, exploring how Tolkien is still speaking to us almost fifty years after his death.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

Big Bold Beowulf: A Study of the Poem

Always wanted to study Beowulf? Here's your opportunity. In our 8 hours together, we will delve into the worlds of the poem, examine the major critical elements, and seek to understand the poem better.
Precepted by Larry Swain.

Bridge to the Silmarillion

This course is intended for people who have read Lord of the Rings and are beginners to the Silmarillion. We will re-read various passages from Lord of the Rings that make reference to First Age people, places, and events: the mighty Elf-friends of old, the Exile of the Elves; the Tale of Tinúviel; the story of Eärendil and more. We will whet our appetites and gather some motivating questions that will make a future journey into the Silmarillion easier and more enjoyable.

Eucatastrophe and Tragedy in Tolkien

We will explore Tolkien’s understanding of these two essential aspects of human literary experience, from the horns of the Rohirrim to the Children of Húrin.
Precepted by Tom Hillman.

Exploring Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham

In this relaxed, discussion-oriented module, we will explore these two lesser-known short stories by Tolkien. While Smith of Wootton Major takes us to Fäerie in a story full of beautiful imagery and sorrow, Farmer Giles of Ham transports us to a comical medieval world full of unforgettable adventures and characters such as giants, Garm the talking dog, and the arrogant dragon Chrysophylax.

FanFiction: Middle-earth

Do you imagine other tales set in Tolkien's beautiful Middle-earth? First person? FRP campaign design? Screen plays? Other minds and hands will come together to create and discuss "what if" for our own fanfiction. We will use a little peer-reading and a lot of focused discussion to move each writer deeper into the story they love. Expect to end the month with a folder full of story seeds or big progress on one big project.
Precepted by Sparrow Alden.

Here Be Dragons

You wouldn't want to end up like Eustace Clarence Scrubb, would you: strong on imports and exports, but weak on dragons? To avoid that fate, come and talk about dragons old and new, wicked and glorious, beloved and feared in many a tale. Python, Hydra, Draco, Leviathan and the Colchian dragon threatened Classical heroes. Germanic gods and warriors contended with Níðhöggr, Jörmungandr, Starkheart, and Fafnir. There are dragons in Arthuriana and medieval folklore. And of course, dragons proliferate in more recent fantasy, including those by Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. LeGuin, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Christopher Paolini, and more. We'll read short excerpts from a wide range of European and American literature, looking at the evolution of the dragon, and attendees will be encouraged to bring in additional texts for discussion. You'll be well prepared for sleeping on a dragon's hoard after this!
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

How To Catch a Bandersnatch

Diana Glyer's marvelous book "Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings" is part literary biography, part how-to guide for setting up your own writing group. We'll read her book and talk through both aspects. We'll unpack what it reveals about Tolkien's & Lewis's creative writing methods, and we'll brainstorm how we might apply those to our own writing, whether individually or in groups. You're totally welcome to attend if your interest is in the scholarly aspect (the Inklings as writers in their time), the creative aspect (how collaborative writing groups work), both, or something else altogether! Either way, I'm sure you'll be inspired and encouraged by the example of these great--but very human--writers.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy, relaxed Book Club setting and discuss the joy of Tolkien’s beloved Christmas tale.
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

In Book Club, YOU decide how our sessions go! Come to Book Club with all of your questions, ideas, and experiences and share the joy of Tolkien’s legendarium. What will you discover this time around? It’s up to you!
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy and relaxed Book Club as we read and discuss J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic, The Hobbit.
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún

Love, power, betrayal, death; the occasional dragon and cursed ring. All these are to be found in the legends of the Vǫlsungs and Niflungs, amongst the most popular and abiding legends of the medieval Germanic-speaking and Norse worlds. J.R.R. Tolkien reworked these into two poems in Modern English patterned after the alliterative style of Old Norse poems. In this module, we read Tolkien’s poems and their accompanying commentary to see how Tolkien wrought his own retelling of these ancient tales, and we’ll trace the connections across from the original medieval legends through Tolkien’s retelling to his original works of fantasy set in Middle-earth.
Precepted by Carl Anderson.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King

In Book Club, YOU decide how our sessions go! Come to Book Club with all of your questions, ideas, and experiences and share the joy of Tolkien’s legendarium. What will you discover?
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers

In Book Club, YOU decide how our sessions go! Come to Book Club with all of your questions, ideas, and experiences and share the joy of Tolkien’s legendarium. What will you discover?
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

Knewbetta’s Guide to the Silmarillion

Is The Silmarillion your favorite book? Is it your least-favorite book? Whether you’re reading it for the first or fiftieth time, KnewBettaDoBetta will help you see it in a more fun, relatable way!

Tolkien’s The Silmarillion is inarguably a complex read. KnewBetta seeks to make it more accessible by teaching the lore in an understandable way. His hope is that everyone can share his knowledge and passion! This course will look at characters, relationships, relatable themes, and meanings that you may not have explored yet.
Precepted by James Tauber.

Pity in The Lord of the Rings

If ‘the Pity of Bilbo’ does not ‘rule the fate of many’, the malice of Sauron will. Pity is essential, yet offers no defense in the end against the pull of the Ring’s power. So Gandalf paradoxically tells us. In this module we shall discuss passages that shed light on this central conflict in The Lord of the Rings.
Precepted by Tom Hillman.

Poetry in Tolkien's Time

While Tolkien was thinking up the earliest inklings of his Legendarium, he and his peers were fighting in the trenches of World War I--and writing poetry about it. Later, as he taught at Oxford, published The Hobbit, and wrote The Lord of the Rings, his great modernist contemporaries changed poetry forever with their experiments in free verse, then dominated the literary scene. In this course, we'll briefly look at verses by Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Barfield, then see what their more famous friends were up to. We'll give a day to soldier-poets of WWI, then devote time to Yeats, Eliot, Auden, and Pound. We'll glance at Stein, Stephen Spender, David Jones, and whichever other British Modernists you're interested in. Of necessity, this will be a brief fly-over survey, but deeper dives are possible in the future.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Religion in the Life and Works of J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien drew upon a wide range of religious, philosophical, and metaphysical sources in shaping his legendarium, including Greek, Norse, Germanic, and Celtic paganisms, Catholic Christianities, Eastern Orthodox and Jewish mysticisms, various Neo-Platonisms, and western esoteric traditions among others. Join the discussion as we explore in some depth these sources and how Tolkien weaves them into his web of story-telling and world-building.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

She Watered It With her Tears: Grief, Mourning, and Death in Tolkien's Legendarium

Among the many themes Tolkien contemplates through his legendarium, that of grief and mourning is prominent. In this class, we will unfold the implications of expressions of grief and mourning in his work. For example, why do lamentations matter, and how might they offer healing? Why does Nienna weep? Are there cases of “inappropriate” grief? What roles do grief and mourning play in the creation of wisdom and beauty? Does Elven grief have special characteristics? What about that of Dwarves and Humans? We will explore these topics and more.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Text, Translation, Film

Can Sir Gawain keep his honor without losing his head? This short classic of Middle English chivalric romance follows Gawain on a quest testing his heroism, social etiquette, sexual virtue, and existential sense of self. This course explores: first, the extraordinary history of the single, unique manuscript which preserves this poem (as it “slept” on a library shelf for 400 years, escaped destruction by fire, and was eventually rediscovered in the 19th century); second, the translations which brought this poem to a twentieth century readership – focusing in particular on J.R.R. Tolkien’s; and finally, the 2021 film by David Lowery.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

The History, People, and Culture of Tolkien's Númenor

With the publication of The Fall of Númenor (November 2022) we finally have much of Tolkien’s writing on this period in the history Middle-earth drawn together in one place. This offers a unique opportunity, at a moment when the island of Númenor has come to greater public awareness via Amazon’s show ‘The Rings of Power’, to fully examine this aspect of Tolkien’s secondary world. In this course, we will explore the history of Númenor, with particular focus on important events, significant people, the geography of the island, and the evolving culture of the Númenóreans.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

The Quest for the Holy Grail

Is the Holy Grail a cup, a platter, or a stone? Where did it come from? Is it real? What does it mean to "achieve" the Grail? Is it only a Christian legend? Why has it remained popular and grown in significance over a thousand-year period of European literature? What does Monty Python have to do with the Grail? How did Indiana Jones get involved? What is the connection between the Grail and Tolkien’s legendarium? Where is the ring of Arthur the King? What Lord has such a treasure in his house?
We'll answer these questions and many more in this course, which will follow the evolution of the Grail from brief references in the Bible through Celtic fertility rituals and medieval romance to its varied presentations today. No prior knowledge is needed, and each student will determine their own reading load and selections.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

'The Rings of Power' Discussion Group

The wait is over and Amazon’s new Tolkien-inspired series has come. Already, this series has stimulated much heated discussion across various social media, with the images and trailers dividing opinion among Tolkien fans. In this discussion group, we will watch the show and discuss what we have seen, linking it to what we already know about Tolkien’s creation, and exploring the ways in which ‘The Rings of Power’ is extending the world of Middle-earth.

Access to copies of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is desirable. Prior knowledge of the texts is also desirable, but you could manage without. Knowledge of The History of Middle-earth series and The Unfinished Tales is a bonus!
Precepted by Sara Brown and James Tauber.

The Second Age of Middle-earth

The Second Age of Middle-earth saw the rise and fall of Númenor, the rise and (apparent) fall of Sauron, and the creation of the Rings of Power. This course will look at the events of the Second Age with readings from LOTR (especially Appendix A and B), Unfinished Tales, and the Silmarillion. It will be of particular interest to people who want to know more about the Second Age to be ready for the Amazon Prime series LOTR: The Rings of Power starting in September 2022.

Tolkien And Alchemy

Transformation and the process of transformation, either physical or of the self, is a significant theme in Tolkien’s writing and appears throughout the Middle-earth legendarium. In this SPACE course, we will explore how the practice, philosophy and symbolism of alchemy resonate in the texts and provide another way to read the changes that are apparent throughout. Amongst other topics, we will look at the Music of the Ainur and Tolkien’s creation myth, the recurring symbolism of the alchemical colours: Black, White and Red, the metaphor of Gold, the nature of the One Ring, and Frodo as alchemical subject.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

Tolkien and the Sea

From the subcreation of Ulmo to travels from Cornwall to Avallonë, the Sea has played a special role in Tolkien’s world. This module looks at key instances of the Sea’s appearance in his writing corpus so that fellow readers can more fully appreciate the haunting beauty of water’s meaning and Tolkien’s imaginative ability. We will be reading excerpts from Tolkien’s legendarium, poetry, and creative historical works.
Precepted by Jennifer Rogers.

Tolkien & Magic

The magic of Middle-earth is a fascinating topic, sparking conversations about its nature, origins, mechanism, and primary-world analogues. Did you know that while Tolkien was writing his fictional language, many of his friends and contemporaries were practicing ceremonial magic? In this class, we’ll look at Elf-magic, Entish powers, prophecy, wizardry, telepathy, the power of the Ring, angelic and constructed languages, words of power, Saruman’s sorcerous voice, immortality, and spiritual ontology. We might even find out what Tolkien thought of his friends who told fortunes and cast spells!
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Tolkien's Ents and the Environment

J. R. R. Tolkien had great sensitivity to the details, delights, and vitality of the natural world. Throughout his writings, and especially in episodes involving the Ents and the land of Rohan, he pays exquisite attention to the lives and even personalities of trees, leaves, trunks, roots, atmosphere, streams, lichen, weather, rocks, cliffs, sun, moon, wind, rain, grass, soil, and other specific elements of creation. In this course, we will read these passages slowly and carefully, trying to appreciate every detail, and discuss what we can learn about caring for flora, fauna, and the planet itself from his loving descriptions and from some smart commentaries on his work.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Tolkien’s Invented Languages in The Lord of the Rings

In this puzzle-solving course we will work to piece together Tolkien’s invented languages based primarily on how they are used in The Lord of the Rings. Although much richer linguistic information became publicly available later, this course will look primarily at those aspects of the languages revealed through the main text and appendices of The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien's Letters

Tolkien’s letters offer scholars and fans alike a revealing, amusing, at times touching glimpse into the Professor’s understanding of his own life and work. In our course we’ll look at a bit of everything, but especially Letter 131, where he tried to explain it all.
Precepted by Tom Hillman.

Tolkien's Unfinished Tales

The Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth is a collection of stories and essays by J.R.R. Tolkien that are filled with all the wonderful elements of story-telling that are to be found in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and yet, for some reason, they are less well-known and less studied. Some, like ‘Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife’, offer a compelling insight into the Second Age and the time of Númenor. Others, such as ‘The History of Galadriel and Celeborn’, ‘The Quest of Erebor’, or ‘The Hunt for the Ring’, shed further light on the events of the Third Age that are so familiar to readers of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We will discuss some of these stories and place them in the context of the other Middle-earth works.

Access to a copy of The Unfinished Tales is essential. Prior knowledge of the stories within is desirable, but you could read them as we go along.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

Tolkien's Writing Systems

This module will study various writing systems invented or adapted by Tolkien. We will primarily look at the Tengwar and the Angerthas (Cirth) described in The Lord of the Rings but we will also touch on other systems such as the Hobbit runes and other runic variants as well as the Goblin Alphabet from Letters from Father Christmas. Along the way we will introduce some basic phonetics and place Tolkien’s inventions in the context of the writing systems of the primary world.

Tolkien, the Anglo-Saxon Minstrel

Explore Tolkien’s Anglo-Saxon poetic inspiration. We will enjoy an introduction to a few Anglo-Saxon poems and then compare Tolkien’s adaptations to their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. Discussions of poetic style and technique will be with us along the way! Texts discussed include Beowulf, The Fall of Arthur, and other poems.
Precepted by Jennifer Rogers.

Tolkien & Williams as Worldbuilders

J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams were friends, contemporaries, and fellow members of the Inklings. They both invented secondary worlds in which to set their stories, poems, and myths--and they both made maps! Indeed, each imagines that his other world is actually a pre-history to or alternative history for our own. We will take a brief look at JRRT's Legendarium and CW's Arthuriana, asking how they developed the geography, history, demographics, and cultures of their imagined worlds, how those related to the primary world, and what significance or symbolism each invited readers to infer from their invented lands.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

To Repair Arda: Tolkien's Dwarves through Jewish Mysticism

J.R.R. Tolkien explicitly and publicly associated his subcreated race of the Dwarves with the Jewish people. This raises all sorts of interesting questions and problems, not least of which is why does he do this, and what within Jewish culture is he referring to? Usually scholars point to Dwarven language and Dwarven history for this association, but in this class we will explore the possibility that at the deepest level Tolkien is also drawing upon aspects of Jewish mysticism to support his claim.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Vampires, Werewolves and Wights – Oh My! Uncanny Creatures in Middle-earth

There are dragons in Tolkien’s works, of course, as well as Ents, Trolls, and Orcs, all enabling Tolkien to give shape and dimension to his world of Middle-earth. Less discussed amongst readers of the legendarium are the weird creatures that sit in the shadows – the ones designed to really make the back of your neck prickle. In this course, we will discuss these more troubling inhabitants of Middle-earth, with some close reading of the texts to guide our way.

Access to copies of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is essential. Prior knowledge of the texts is desirable, but you could read them as we go along.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

When Tolkien Wrote Time-Travel

Tolkien’s essay into the time-travel genre is little known and even less likely read. However, his Lost Road and Notion Club Papers showcase his grappling with concepts at the heart of his legendarium. This module highlights those works, taking readers through a genre study, philological walkthrough, and conceptual discussion of the fragments. Buckle in for a Tolkien-guided adventure through Earth’s history back to the time of the Elves.
Precepted by Jennifer Rogers.

Worldbuilding for SFF Writers

While building an entire world may seem like a daunting or divine task, thankfully there are many great writers who have gone before and left behind their advice, instructions, and encouragement for creating a secondary universe of your own. In this course, we'll look at what some smart and skillful folks have said about subcreation, then apply their ideas to your constructed storyworlds. We'll talk about how to choose and develop the properties of your land, what unique objects it contains, what level of technology its inhabitants have reached, who those inhabitants are, what language(s) they speak, what the physical nature of the world is, how its logic works, and--most importantly--its atmosphere and the philosophical implications of each of your creative choices. You should leave this course ready to set stories in your secondary universe.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].